School board balances budget for new school year

By: 
Jordan Gerard

The Spring Grove School Board approved the proposed budget for the 2019-2020 school year, which shows the revenue was a little higher this year and that the board feels good about the budget.

District Accountant Tanya Elton said undesignated fund balances are high, but those will be spent down soon. She also anticipates the fund balance will decrease a bit and that cost will carry over to next year.

She also announced the district received a waiver, which ensures them to not raise lunch prices for students. The kitchen does expect to purchase a new salad bar.

Principal’s report

Principal Nancy Gulbranson said the district had a successful end of the year with good graduation parties and kids being safe. 

The band and choir trip to Nashville went well and kids returned home safe and sound. 

The Lions Academy is planned for 65 students to attend from grades first through sixth. Julianna Lile will work with junior high students and older for credit recovery. 

The program starts July 8 and goes until Aug. 1, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Teachers Jackie Parker, Sarah Tollefsrud, Teala Heddlesten, Aly Meyer and Kaitlin Bratland will be helping with the program. 

Administrative staff has been working with the new substitute system, Teachers on Call, which will hopefully provide a larger pool of substitutes to choose from. It will also take the burden off Gulbranson to line up subs at about 6 in the morning during the school year. Teachers will receive training during their in-service days.

Gulbranson also announced Spring Grove family Tony and Joyce Heppner will host a foreign exchange student from Lebanon through the Program of Academic Exchange (PAX). Nayade Alsabbagh will be a junior at Spring Grove High School, but will also take a senior government class and go on the senior trip to Washington, D.C.

Kinderprep Academy for incoming kindergarteners will be held in August, after the Houston County Fair. Kindergarteners will receive a post card with more details.

Superintendent’s report

The board continued the discussion on window artwork again from the May meeting. 

The cost to install it would be about $1,344 for the game gym doors. If the school wanted another wrap on the cafeteria doors, the total cost would about $3,282. Student Council is willing to donate $750 toward the project, with the district picking up the remainder.

If the board did not want to put money toward it, Student Council could raise the funds on their own.

Gulbranson said it would also block the art door that goes down to the cafeteria. 

Athletic Director Shelly Anderson said many schools are doing the wraps to help with branding. 

Board members asked about the life expectancy of the wraps, especially if kids pick at it with fingernails. The board agreed to let Shelly find answers to a few questions and re-visit it again in July.

Superintendent Rachel Udstuen announced the legislature has invested about $543 million in education. If the state’s education fund balance grows by $63 million, Spring Grove will receive an additional $34.70 per student for school safety projects.

One big win for school districts was the school bonding ag credit – Ag2School – which reduces taxes for those with agricultural property. Farmers used to carry a very large portion of a school bond bill.  

By 2023, that credit is expected to be at 70%, and if the board has to ask taxpayers for money in the future, it’s part of their annual funding.

Udstuen told the board that notifications about weather-related closings or other notifications will be through JMC and the Remind app. JMC will add Spring Grove’s list from Remind to their Remind account. Parents and others needing to know have options between a recorded phone call, text message or voicemail.

Finally, Udstuen made clear that the Caledonia school district was talking about a year-round school calendar, but so far, no decisions have been made. She does not anticipate seeing that in Spring Grove’s future just yet.

Why we play

The board approved a resolution to continue its membership with the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL). 

Before that, Anderson brought a video from MSHSL and the mission statements of each coach at Spring Grove and why they coach. 

She thanked the board for their continued support for Spring Grove athletics, especially after two state football trips and one state basketball trip.

“It means a lot to us that you’re supportive and excited by it,” she said. “We definitely had some long and hard-worked for goals that were met this year. We have very valued and successful members of our coaching staff.”

Volleyball coach Kelsey Anderson said she memorized her mission statement and repeats it to her girls and parents a lot. Kelsey’s is, “I coach to empower young women to lead with positivity and enthusiasm, who will create healthy relationships throughout their lives.”

“Each year is a success if we don’t get there [state volleyball],” she concluded.

Boys basketball coach Wade Grinde said if coaches don’t live by their mission statement, it’s just words on a page.

Grinde’s statement is, “I coach my players to have integrity in all aspects of their lives. We expect them to be competitive and be a great teammate at all times. Our goal is to teach a daily work ethic that will help build these skills in all of our athletes.”

“Integrity is doing what’s right when no one’s wathcing,” he said. “Being a great teammate is the culture of the program.” 

Even though less than 3% of students will go onto play college sports and less than 1% will play in the professional leagues, Grinde added, “[Kids] will compete every day of [their] lives ... learning to handle success and failure and competition is important.”

Anderson also noted how many current coaches were once Spring Grove athletes and now help new generations of Lion athletes. 

“We did something right,” she said.

Hires/Resignations

The board accepted the contracts and resignations of the following people:

Resignation of elementary teacher Matt Rosaaen. Rosaaen is furthering is leadership journey as a 5-12 principal at Grand Meadow.

Hire of David Erschoff-Costet as a custodian. 

Subcontract with Mabel-Canton for special education. Kaitlin Bratland was hired as a special education teacher at Mabel-Canton. She also worked part time at Spring Grove in the same position. This year she will work with early childhood, kindergarten and sixth and seventh grade. 

Hire of Abigail Touissant as a marching color guard choreographer.

Contract for Trisha Myrah as a full time paraprofessional. Myrah has worked part-time for Spring Grove previously.

Contract with Gina Meinertz as a transformational leader (Rosaaen’s second position at Spring Grove). Meinertz will work 210 days for a salary of $88,500.

This position is expected to be funded by the Bush Foundation, but if they don’t, Elton said there are other ways of funding the position. 

Udstuen will also hand off some of her duties such as curriculum to Meinertz, thus reducing her contract from .7 FTE to .6 FTE. 

Her position may also be shared with another district, but the contract with Spring Grove is set for two years. It can be re-negotiated in the first year. Meinertz is also taking a leave of absence from Caledonia during this time.

Other news

The board approved Schmidt Transportation for busing purposes for $177,285.38 for the 2019-20 school year, which is a 1% increase from last year. 

The board also approved a resolution that the district assumes control of student accounts, which means all checks for student activities runs through the school now. 

Previously, student activity accounts didn’t have to run under the school board control. 

These accounts for Spring Grove include all the class accounts (for skits, floats, etc.), Washington D.C., FFA., Drama Club and so on. Now the board is required to oversee these accounts.

The board approved the list of scheduled student fundraisers for the 2019-20 year.

The 2019-20 calendar was approved. March parent/teacher conferences were moved from March 10 to March 17 because of Township Election Day.

Finally, they approved a wage increase for non-certified hourly employees, which are positions such as kitchen, maintenance and paraprofessionals. Those employees will get a $1 increase this year and a 2% increase next year, which adds up to about $25,000 in additional costs. 

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Spring Grove School board will be July 15, at 7 p.m. in the Media Center.